Nursing 101: A Brief Guide to Breastfeeding for New Moms
Breastfeeding may be one of the most natural things we do — but for many new moms, it can feel anything but natural. From difficulties with latching to not producing enough milk, there are many breastfeeding challenges you may face.
Thankfully, there’s a lot of help available when it comes to breastfeeding for new moms. This includes the plethora of breastfeeding advice for first-time moms that you’ll find online, plus tailored support by experts like MamaNatal.
To help you get started, here’s a short guide to breastfeeding and solutions to five common breastfeeding challenges.
Breastfeeding for New Moms in 4 Easy Steps
While finding the most effective and comfortable position for breastfeeding is unique to every mom and newborn, the act of breastfeeding itself is relatively straightforward.
Here are four simple steps you can follow:
Learn your baby’s hunger cues
A sign that your baby is hungry is making sucking sounds, putting their hands to their mouth, or turning their head toward something that touches their mouth or cheek. Learn these signs so you can breastfeed them before they start crying.
Adopt a comfortable breastfeeding position
Find a position that’s most comfortable for you and your baby.
Examples include the cross-cradle position that allows you to support your baby’s back and neck (a favorite for moms whose babies are premature and need that extra support) or the football hold, which helps keep your baby in an upright position while feeding (recommended for moms who’ve had a caesarean, have a strong let-down reflex, or have larger breasts).
Encourage your baby to nurse
Rub your baby’s cheek or gently push your nipple toward their upper lip to encourage them to open their mouth. You may even want to try expressing some milk before rubbing it into your nipple. The smell should help encourage your baby to nurse.
Get a good latch
To encourage the best latching technique, you want to make sure your baby’s lower lip is quite a bit below your nipple. Make a V-shape with your fingers around your areola to ensure your baby gets a large mouthful of your breast. Doing this will make sure your nipple is away from the hard palate at the front of the mouth and directed more toward the soft palate at the back.
5 Breastfeeding Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Now that you know the bare basics of breastfeeding, let’s look at five potential breastfeeding difficulties you may face, and how to solve them.
Many nursing moms experience sore nipples when they first start breastfeeding. Breastfeeding for new moms can be very uncomfortable at first, but once you’ve got a good latch, you should find that it gets easier and more comfortable.
However, if this isn’t the case and you’re putting off breastfeeding because of pain, it’s a good idea to speak to a lactation consultant to see if the issue can be remedied.
They will be able to advise which, if any, creams are best for you, may recommend a nipple shield, or may give advice on what to wear (nursing pads, loose-fitting clothing) to help ease your nipple pain.
Low milk supply
A common worry for any new mom is whether she’s producing enough milk for her baby. Checking your baby’s weight and growth will help you gauge if your baby is getting enough milk.
To help increase your milk supply, make sure that:
- your baby is positioned properly and latched on well
- you are breastfeeding regularly and only finish when your baby decides
- you are offering both your breasts during each feed (swap breasts when your baby stops feeding or slows down)
- you try to avoid using formula feed until your baby is at least six months old
- you use a breastfeeding supplement or multivitamin with galactagogues
When your milk supply comes in, it’s common for breasts to feel heavy, large, and tender. While this is normal, experiencing hard and extremely painful breasts may indicate breast engorgement. This tends to occur around three to five days after you’ve given birth, but may happen if you’re not expressing or feeding enough.
Other signs of engorgement include warmth, redness, throbbing, low-grade fever, and flattened nipples.
To avoid this, you must:
- breastfeed regularly
- massage your breasts
- use cold compresses
- wear a supportive bra that isn’t too tight
- get plenty of rest
- speak to a lactation consultant if the issue isn’t resolved.
Oversupply of milk
If your breasts are too full, this can also cause discomfort and may make breastfeeding stressful for you and your baby.
Be sure to breastfeed on one side for each feed, using one breast for two hours until the next big feed. Hand express if the other breast feels full and uncomfortable. Wind your baby if they appear to be gassy, as this will make way for more milk.
Your baby may feed well for several months before suddenly refusing your breast. This is often a sign that there’s something wrong, and doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby is ready to stop breastfeeding completely.
It may be a sign of teething, infection, being upset about a change in their routine, being distracted while breastfeeding, or it may indicate that they’re getting less milk from you.
Be patient, offer your baby both breasts, express your milk, try different breastfeeding positions, and seek breastfeeding support when necessary.
How to Help a New Mom Breastfeeding
As you can see from the above, breastfeeding for new moms can present a number of different challenges, but it’s also an entirely unique experience.
When you’re faced with potential breastfeeding difficulties, don’t despair; there is often a simple and effective solution for you and your baby!